An acute migraine is a severe headache that comes on suddenly and often causes nausea, light sensitivity, and fatigue. Migraines may be triggered by one of a number of different factors, including alcohol withdrawal, intense light or sounds, stress, or hormonal imbalances. Most migraines can be treated at home with pain relievers and several hours of rest. A person who experiences an acute migraine for the first time or has an especially severe episode should visit the emergency room to receive a proper diagnosis and learn about treatment options.
An individual may experience telling symptoms of an impending acute migraine before it actually occurs. Vision changes called auras often affect both eyes about half an hour before a migraine. Auras produce blurry or spotty vision, eye pain, and subtle feelings of nausea. Once a migraine actually sets in, a person is likely to develop a throbbing, dull headache that may be accompanied by chills, weakness, vomiting, and sweating.
Another form of migraine, called an acute confusional episode, is almost exclusively experienced by young children. An acute confusional migraine may or may not cause a headache, but most episodes do result in disorientation, lapses in cognitive ability, and vomiting. Several hours of sleep is often enough to recover from this type of problem.
An acute migraine can usually be overcome in a few hours by resting, avoiding light and sound, drinking water, and taking over-the-counter pain medications. People who are able to fall asleep often begin to feel better when they wake up. A severe migraine may necessitate a trip to the emergency room. Doctors and nurses can ask about symptoms, provide oral or intravenous drugs, and conduct diagnostic tests to check for underlying problems.
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans may reveal obvious problems, such as tumors or cerebral contusions, which need to be treated accordingly with surgery or medication. Most MRIs for migraines do not show actual brain damage. Once the patient is feeling better, the doctor can prescribe medication and explain the physiology of an acute migraine. He or she explains the importance of recognizing warning signs, such as auras, and taking immediate steps to prevent a slight headache from progressing into a full migraine.
In some people, migraines become chronic problems that involve frequent, long-lasting episodes. An individual who experiences chronic head pain should visit a neurologist for a thorough examination. The doctor can take additional MRIs and an electroencephalogram to look for signs of seizure disorders, infections, and other conditions that may be making the patient's migraines worse. Individuals are often prescribed medications to take during attacks or daily as preventive care.